In the 1950s, proms shifted from high school gyms to hotel ballrooms or country club banquet halls, and competition for the best dress and the best escort greatly intensified.
aTTIRE: Women wore dresses with a fitted bodice but “poofy” crinoline skirts. The fabrics used for dresses were organza, taffeta, tulle and satin. Evening wear and prom dresses were adorned with sequins, rhinestones, lace and embroidered appliqués. Accompanying accessories were simple, such as pearl earrings and a matching strand of pearls.
In the early ’50s, men wore tuxedos with black or white jackets. But, as the decade progressed, men began swapping their white shirts for brightly colored hues and rolling up their trouser legs to expose matching socks.
“Love Me Tender”
Cha Cha Cha; Tennessee
Wig Walk; Champion Strut;
The Monkey; Mule Walk;
The Stroll; Bossa Nova; Jamaican Calypso; Pachanga; The Bounce; The Dip
Given the political and socio-economic climate of the ’60s, freedom of expression became a more popular trend. Toward the end of the decade, prom attendance dwindled as the younger generation was more interested in political rallies than social get-togethers. The hippie movement, which came late in the decade, gave way to a free-spirit attitude.
Attire: Women’s prom formalwear during the 1960s was feminine but shied away from showing too much skin. Instead, dresses emphasized form without being skintight or low cut. Many dresses had empire waists and sleeves. They were often made of flowy fabrics such as rayon and chiffon. Men moved away from conservative colors, instead donning bright hues.
“I Got You Babe” (Sonny & Cher)
“And I Love Her” (Beatles)
“Theme From a Summer Place” (Percy Faith)
The Strollypso; Watusi; Locomotion; The Frug; The Jerk; Pilmore; The Mashed Potato; San Francisco Stomp; the Grapevine
During the 1970s, increasing political awareness and the political and economic liberty of women continued to grow. Popular music groups and Hollywood films greatly influenced the clothing styles during the 1970s, which carried over to events such as prom.
Attire: The 1970s prom dress put less emphasis on elegance and more on a sense of bohemian casualness. Monochromatic dresses were popular and skirts were long and billowy. Feathery Farrah Fawcett hair was all the rage. Women were showing a little more skin and many of the dresses had spaghetti straps. Men wore loud colored tuxedos with colorful ruffled shirts underneath.
Texas Two Step; Hustle; Disco; Nightclub Two Step; Crip Walk,
“Baby I Love Your Way” (Peter Frampton)
“I Go Crazy” (Paul Davis)
“Always & Forever” (Heatwave)
In the 1980s, prom began to take on a larger-than-life status thanks to several teen movies that featured the prom as a coming-of-age event in a teen’s life. Think “Pretty in Pink” and “Footloose.” Also, prom-goers began to hire stretch limos to shuttle them to and from the event.
Attire: There was a drastic shift from the dresses of the 1970s to 1980s. Formalwear of the ’80s was loud: sequins, puffy sleeves, taffeta, bright colors and lots and lots of fabric. To obtain the ultimate prom look, girls would match the color of their pumps to the dress. Big costume jewelry including large necklaces and stacked bracelets made up the accessories. And, not to be forgotten was the hair — the more hair spray and teasing, the better. Makeup was bold and bright.
By the late 1980s, men had moved from bright-colored tuxes back to a more classic style with tailored jackets with shoulder pads. Men’s formalwear shirts for prom were also more classic. Wearing one’s collar turned up was big in the ’80s, and this carried over into formalwear with the wing-tip collar, which stood up and folded down at the corners in front.
Moonwalk; Disco Fox; breakdancing; The Robot;
The Worm; slam dancing; Electric Slide; Vogue;
the Roger Rabbit
“Every Breath You Take” (The Police)
“Crazy For You” (Madonna)
“Take My Breath Away” (Berlin)
The proms of the 1990s were as unique as the clothing trend of the decade. High schoolers were free to wear whatever the wanted to express themselves. Short cocktail dresses, converse sneakers with a suit, questionably located piercings or skin art (aka tattoos) — the more unique you were, the better.
Attire Promwear in the ’90s was extremely different than the ’80s. It was simpler and starker. Dresses were long with sleeker profiles. The “slip-dress” was in. Halter-tops also came on the scene at prom during the ’90s. Men wore tuxes with wide ties or no tie at all.
Kid ’n’ Play; Tootsee Roll; The Carlton; The Jiggy; Da Dip; The Humpty Dance; The Rump Shaker; Macarena
“My Heart Will Go On” (Celine Dion)
“I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston)
“I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” (Aerosmith)
In the 2000s, the prom continues to be an important event in a teen’s life. Prom themes continue to be derived from popular literature and films. Now, it is not always about having a date with which to attend the prom. Instead, groups go together, making it a more meaningful way to commemorate high school days with friends.
Attire: Dresses became more of a unique endeavor during this decade, which seems to have continued to this day. The dresses of the 2000s varied from short to long and showed a wide range of colors and styles. Women purchased dresses based on body type, not a general style. Men stuck to traditional black tuxes with colored vests, cummerbunds and bowties or straight ties and white shirts.
The One-Two Step; Krumping; The Dougie; the fist pump
“Shape of My Heart” (Backstreet Boys)
“You Sang to Me” (Marc Anthony)
“A Moment Like This” (Kelly Clarkson)